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Elections and Education – What a Polly Scramble!

Stuart Middleton


20 October 2017

So now we know! The die is cast! The road less-travelled has been chosen. Our fates are cast to the wind. Or to put it another way, the Government has been declared. Education wasn’t a central star in the drama of the election campaign but plenty of ideas were dressed up as policy. Now there will be a scramble to give effect to some of it. It will be a little like a lolly scramble when energetic adult hurl lollies over the heads of children. The result can often be tears (“I didn’t get any!”) or complaints (“They pushed me and I fell over!” and even shrieks about fairness (“I only got two and he got fistfuls!”)

The next year will be something of a “Polly Scramble” as the three parties that will make us the next government scramble to get some meaning to wrap around their slim descriptions of policy intention let alone to bring it into fruition.

The thirty or so policies that I spotted are like a bag of all-sorts. Some are big, others are small but unlike lollies, some cost a huge amount while other have little cost beyond simply asking us to behave differently. And that is the challenge.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and education policies that have failed or perhaps not even been implemented or, and this is quite common, been socialised into the education system so that we can continue to act in the old way while seeming to adopt the new.

So, I offer the list below as an aide memoire when you are asked about the progress being made by the new government in Education. Or perhaps even when you are asked what it is that you need.

Education System             

  • Spend $6b over 4 years to include $1.8b for more teachers, PD, resources (Labour) nationwide PD for teachers to ensure meet student needs equitably (NZ First).
  • Increased PD and training for Trustees.
  • Increase spending by $315m to build a more inclusive education system (Greens).


  • Bring back more funding for ECE Centres employing 100% qualified and registered teachers (Labour).
  • Fund primary classes of 26 students and secondary classes to a maximum of 23 students
  • All ECE Centre employ at least 80% qualified staff within three years (Labour).
  • Extend 20 hours free ECE to 2-year- olds (Greens)
  • Actively support more public centre in areas of low provision (Labour).
  • $150 per student for school not charging fees or compulsory donations (Labour).
  • Re-establish curriculum and school support advisors (NZ First).
  • All students to have access to mobile digital devices (Labour).
  • Low decile schools to get free after-school care, free holiday programmes, free lunches and the all the schools get school nurses (Greens).
  • All schools to have modern classrooms within 12 years (Labour).
  • $2,000 PM Awards for Vocational Excellence selected by the school (Labour).
  • Review truancy contracts, their centralisation and the extent to which they meet local needs (NZ First).
  • Double the funding for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) and the Early Intervention Service (EIS) (Greens).
  • Scrapping Public Private Partnership for providing school(Labour).
  • Doing away with Charter Schools(Labour).
    • Strengthening child rights in the Education Act to ensure every child can be included in their local school (Greens).

Tertiary Education           

  • Increase living costs to $50 allowance and a $50 increase in the amount that can be borrowed (Labour).
  • Postgraduates to get student allowances (Labour).
  • Tertiary students to get free off-peak travel on public transport (Greens)
  • Long course allowances and loans extended beyond seven years (Labour).
  • Free tertiary education (1 year free for a 2018 start and 3 years free by 2024) (Labour).
  • Wage subsidy equal to the unemployment benefit for employers taking on apprentices (Labour).
  • Bring back ACE funding for night classes for adult learners (Labour).
    • The School Leavers Toolkit school leavers will be getting a driving licence, possess workplace competencies, be financially literate, have budgeting skills and know their democratic rights and responsibilities (Labour).


  • Fund properly Children’s Champions on the ratio Champs to kids of 1 : 400 (Greens).
  • Students with additional learning needs will have the opportunity to experience school camps and activities just like every other student (Greens).

I suggest you print this off, add any other policies that you come across and tick the ones that are implemented. Or when changes are suggested and/or made, see if you can spot them in this list.

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  1. Jim Doyle Jim Doyle

    I worry a bit about the free 1st year of tertiary study. It’s a very crude instrument. We know a significant proportion of tertiary (university?) students, for a variety of reasons get ‘culled’ after their first year. Making the 1st year free is only going to increase that proportion. Far better would be to target priority areas and make those qualifications ‘fee-free’ on condition that (a) people graduate and (b) commit to working in NZ for say three years after graduation.

    It’s going to be an interesting ride.

  2. Ian Douthwaite Ian Douthwaite

    Well of course first year free is only the first step towards to the (old) goal of three years ‘free’ tertiary education, i.e. a ‘free’ degree. Not sure what the figures are on completions within three years these days.

    Unsure too of what the goal is. Participation rates are probably already close to being as high as they’re going to get, expecially at degree level, and where increasing participation perhaps might be useful – among the NEET cohort – study is widely free now anyway through YG.

    If the goal is to ease student debt, then an increase of $50pw in living costs puts $2kpa straight back on the potential loan burden.

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